Channel 4 claims Sri Lanka footage “authentic”

Footage is part of documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:22 am IST

Published - March 14, 2012 02:17 am IST - LONDON:

Britain's Channel 4 on Tuesday insisted in comments to The Hindu that its footage purporting to show that the slain LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran's 12-year-old unarmed son Balachandran Prabakaran was “brutally executed” by Sri Lankan forces in May 2009 even as he was preparing to surrender was “authentic”.

The footage is part of a documentary, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished , to be screened on Wednesday.

The Sri Lankan government has questioned its authenticity, calling it “concocted”, and protested to Channel 4 .

However, Callum McCrae, director of the documentary, told The Hindu that the footage of Balachandran's bullet-ridden body lying besides his “slaughtered bodyguards” had been examined by a “respected forensic pathologist”, Professor Derrick Pounder. Channel 4 , he said, had also obtained “a series of high-resolution stills of the scene” which had also been examined by Professor Pounder.

“Professor Pounder believes he has identified first of the shots to be fired at the boy. It is possible, he suggests, that the boy may have been made to watch the execution of his bound and blindfolded guards before the gun was turned on him,” he said, claiming that forensic analysis “suggested” that he was shot at point-blank range.

Mr. McCrae said the Channel 4 had “seen” a leaked legal sworn testimony by a senior Sri Lankan official claiming that Balachandran was executed by government soldiers as he was being escorted to surrender.

“He had been seen with five escorts [going] to surrender. I got to know at a later stage that they [security forces] found out that he was Prabhakaran's son,” the leaked document reportedly says.

Mr. McCrae said: “We've examined the document and found it to be genuine. It is a chilling new evidence of Sri Lankan security forces' systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters, even if they were children.”

He said the footage dating from May 18, 2009 appeared to have been shot as a “grotesque trophy video by Sri Lankan forces”. It shows a 12-year-old boy lying on the ground — stripped to the waist and with “five neat bullet holes in his chest”. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground which, the film claims, indicated that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot.

“The blindfold of Balachandran appeared to have been removed before he was shot,” Mr. McCrae said.

The 50-minute film purports to show “new video evidence of war crimes” including contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, and stills.

“It investigates who was responsible — the results point to the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government and complicity at the top of the army. It forensically examines four specific cases. The cases are: the deliberate heavy shelling of civilians and a hospital in the ‘No Fire Zone'; the strategic denial of food and medicine to hundreds and thousands of trapped civilians … and the systematic execution of naked and bound LTTE prisoners,” Mr. McCrae said.

In a statement, the Global Tamil Forum sought India's intervention.

“We want Delhi to be sensitive to feelings of the Tamils and support the U.S.-led resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva India must stand for justice now,” said its spokesman Suren Surendiran.

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